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Will the Baltimore Ravens use the franchise tag this year?

The Ravens have 2 important free agents who they could use the tag on...

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Today is the first day the Baltimore Ravens can use the franchise tag to hold onto a player who potentially could sign elsewhere. The window to sign a player to the franchise tag begins today at 4 PM, and goes until March 1st. The last player the Ravens used the tag on was Ray Rice in 2012, and the team ended up signing him to a deal before the season.

The Ravens have a history of agreeing to contracts with the players they use the tag on. Wally Williams in 1998, Chris McAlister in 2004, Terrell Suggs in 2009, Haloti Ngata in 2011, and Rice in 2012 are the only Ravens to get the tag; all but Williams agreed to long term deals with the team. So this bodes well for the use of the tag this year.

The two candidates for the franchise tag this year are obvious, although one makes much more sense than the other. Kicker Justin Tucker and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele are the options, and Tucker makes much more sense due to the cost of the tag, which is a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five cap hits at the player's position for the previous five years applied to the current salary cap, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater.

For a kicker like Tucker, the franchise tag for 2015 was a reasonable $4,126,000. Tucker's long term deal would probably average more than that, with New England's Stephen Gostkowski signing a 4 year, $17.2 million deal ($4.3 AAV) last July after New England tagged him.

To contrast, the franchise tag does not differentiate between the different offensive line positions, so the tag for 2015 was $12,943,000. This is an exorbitant amount for Kelechi Osemele, as it takes into account the cap hits of the elite left tackles, where as Osemele is potentially an elite guard or an above average left tackle. Either way, there is no way his long term deal will come close to averaging over $10 million a season.

So even though one could argue that Osemele is the higher priority, the tag is not a viable option. If Osemele were to sign the franchise tag, the Ravens would be on the hook for $12,943,000 in 2016, and that is a scenario the Ravens cannot afford.

So the Ravens will likely use the franchise tag on Tucker, and leave Osemele a free agent. It is not ideal, but it is the only course of action for the Ravens.